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Can I change careers with loads of debt?
DFA reader Beckey asked:
I need some advice. I am currently working the IT Support field but am finding myself bored and tired of the work. I’ve always wanted to become a Veterinarian so now I’m thinking of a career change. I’ve been looking around at some local schools and one of them has a 2 year Veterinary Technician degree that I think would be great for getting my feet wet to see if I in fact would love this field. I’m thinking of going part time, so I can still work either part time or full time to help with the income. The only problem is, between my boyfriend and I, we have almost $50,000 in debt (both had bad breakups with exes, he has school loans). We have been aggressive with paying off our debt and actually paid off 4 credit cards last year. We have our plan in place to become debt free, by October 2012, so we are both full speed ahead on paying off our debt. I’m not sure what to do here. I don’t really want to stay in my current job but can’t afford to not have that income.
Hi Beckey… let me start by saying that I love your question. It conjures visions of a happy optimist with shackled dreams – held back by poor financial choices from her past but eager to do things right this next time around – an all too familiar story. After carefully pondering your situation I think you have a good idea of what needs to be done… so my advice should ring true as we work to help you devise a solid strategy.
The single best advice I can give is to work harder than ever. You still need the income from you IT support job until the $50,000 debt is repaid so do not quit. If you absolutely cannot stand your job just be sure to find another with similar compensation before leaving; perhaps grunt labor in the field of veterinary medicine? 🙂
If you can pay for classes without going into more debt then go ahead and follow your desire to start school while working. More on this later.
Set, prioritize, and achieve your goals
Speaking of goals, what are yours? Have you ever written them down? Let’s try to help you set your first goal so you can effectively prioritize your actions.
It sounds like you biggest desires are:
- Debt reduction
- Career change
What do you despise more… the debt or the IT support job? Will it feel better to pay off the debt or to get out of that job? Before you answer remember that the debt is what’s keeping you in the job. 😉
It sounds like you have a solid understanding of debt slavery and are eagerly working a plan to get out. You desire a career change but your debt has you shackled to a position you dislike only because delivers a way to repay the debt. Sounds like slavery to me! Therefore debt reduction should be your first order of business.
Note: a second job would accelerate debt reduction and the ability to follow your dreams – whatever they may be!
Here is what I would do:
Pay off debt before going into more debt
You do not mention how you plan to pay for Veterinary school. Can you pay as you go or will you need to take out student loans?
Since debt is what got us into this mess in the first place it only makes sense to avoid further bondage until existing debt is gone. If you must borrow for school then do so after October 2o12 or whenever your existing debt obligations have been met.
I am not saying you cannot borrow money to fund education – though I usually advise against it – I am saying you should not add to existing debt with more debt.
Assure yourself before making large life changes
Also… are you absolutely sure you will love the work of a VT?
To be completely honest with you, it does not sound like you are entirely sure veterinary medicine is the cure for your career discontentment. Read your sentence again, “I’ve been looking around at some local schools and one of them has a 2 year Veterinary Technician degree that I think would be great for getting my feet wet to see if I in fact would love this field.”
Are you convinced that veterinary medicine will make you happy? How long have you worked in IT Support? Make sure that you are not trying to project dissatisfaction in other areas of your life onto your current career. Also, make sure you are not suffering from The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome. I bring this up because it is very important. The last thing you need to do is spend thousands on education only to wind up right back where you started.
Focus on accelerating debt reduction while assuring yourself of the best career move. Consider working a second job to speed debt reduction and freedom. Once you can confidently vouch for your passions consider getting a grunt job in the field so you can get an everyday working feel for the industry. After your debt is gone… go do whatever your little heart desires! Well… within reason of course. 🙂
What do you think?
What are some tips I may have missed that Beckey should use to get out of debt and into life?
photo removed at the request of Mareen Fischinger
If you need personal finance advice… ask Matt Jabs.
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